Something to discuss

Did you know?

Course announcements provide guidance for your students along their...

The majority of communication in most online classrooms takes place asynchronously – outside of real time – enabling students to connect at their own convenience, within a scheduled course framework. Asynchronous communication tools help facilitate this communication, providing opportunities for more reflective dialogue, and often comprise a significant portion of online course learning activities.

Aside from announcements and email, the online discussion forum is the most pervasive asynchronous tool in online and blended teaching. Typically, within an LMS/VLE there are a variety of discussion forum types that you can integrate into your teaching, and you may wish to explore the settings within your own LMS/VLE to discover what types of activities are supported.

In the following activity, click on the tabs on the left-hand side to find out more about the different types of discussion forum, and the activities available to students in each.

The following paragraphs will present more information about the different types of discussion forum, and the activities available to students in each.

Key terms

Discussion thread: A discussion thread is a topic posted in a discussion...

Standard discussion forum

Each person can post and respond to all posts. This is the most common discussion forum type.


Single topic discussion forum

Each person can post only one topic to start a thread, and everyone can post a response to the topic. This is the best approach when you require every student to start a topic within a specific forum, although it does limit each user to start only one thread in this discussion type – including you! This type of discussion forum lends itself well to peer review assignments, where students post their work, and others comment on their postings.


Required post discussion forum

Each person must respond to the posted question before being able to see the responses made by others. This encourages students to think independently before posting. Once they do post, they will be able to see, and reply to, all other responses.


Debate discussion forum

Some LMS/VLEs have a setting for debate-style discussions, where students can select their debate team role from a drop-down menu. Even if this feature is not available, you can establish debate rules and ask that your students identify their role within the title of their posts.


Hot seat discussion forum

Some LMS/VLEs have a setting for hot seat style discussions, where one student is responsible for answering all questions posted. Even if this feature is not available, you can assign one student to be in the 'hot seat', fielding any questions from the rest of the group.


Group or team discussion forum

Most group discussion settings include options for separated groups and inclusive groups. With separated group settings, students can only post in their group and, in turn, can only view their own group postings. With inclusive groups, students can only post in their group, but can see the posts in other groups. In both cases you, the teacher, will be able to post and respond as usual.

Setting your guidelines

Your context

Investigate the asynchronous communication tool...

As with all communication within teaching and learning environments, it is good practice to establish interaction guidelines. Most discussion forum applications allow you to edit settings related to student interaction and posting permissions, along with date and time restrictions. Exploring these settings can help you determine the guidelines that would best fit with your teaching style.

Review the feature possibilities in the next activity, and consider what interaction approach you would like to use in the online discussion tool within your LMS/VLE.

In the following activity, consider each feature, click to view the 'Possibilities' allowed by that feature, and then click to view our thoughts on the 'Benefits' of these possibilities in online teaching. Use 'Next' to move to the next feature.
The following paragraphs will outline some of the possibilities and benefits of different discussion forum features and settings. As you review the different features and their affordances, consider what interaction approach you would like to use in the online discussion tool within your LMS/VLE.

Date and time settings

Possibilities:

Allows you to open and close discussion forum areas on specific dates and times.

Benefits:

This sets parameters and helps students manage their time.


Anonymous posting options

Possibilities:

Allows you and your students to post anonymously.

Benefits:

This allows students to post course related questions or raise issues without having to identify themselves to the entire class.


Remove posts and threads

Possibilities:

Allows you to delete all posts and threads, and your students to delete their own posts and thread.

Benefits:

This allows you to remove posts that are inappropriate, and to moderate the discussion. This also allows students to remove their own posts if they find that they have posted in error.


Modify authored posts

Possibilities:

Allows you, the teacher, to modify all posts, and your students to modify their own posts up until the time the discussion forum closes.

Benefits:

The ability to edit work is a key component of any learning experience! Be sure to set your date and time settings if you do not want students to change their posts after a specific date/time.


Reply with quote

Possibilities:

Allows anyone to post a reply which includes the original post as a quote.

Benefits:

This allows you and your students to properly cite the work of others and to include the full or partial text of a previous post.


Allow attachments

Possibilities:

Allows anyone to include an attachment to a post or reply.

Benefits:

This enables you and your students to share associated resources with ease.


Create new threads

Possibilities:

Allows students to create new threads.

Benefits:

This provides your students with the opportunity to guide the online conversation.


Subscribe to threads

Possibilities:

Allows anyone to subscribe to threads, which sends an email notice with thread content when anyone adds to the discussion.

Benefits:

This makes it much easier to keep track of new discussion posts, and helps keep students on task.


Enable rating

Possibilities:

Allows peer rating of posts, typically with a five star rating system.

Benefits:

This enables peer review of student work, which encourages students to more carefully craft discussion forum responses.


Archive posts

Possibilities:

Allows you to archive posts separate from archiving an entire course.

Benefits:

This allows you to store previous discussions for reference use in future classes.


Enable moderation

Possibilities:

Allows you or an appointed student to moderate the discussion. This requires review and release of any new posts.

Benefits:

This enables you and your students to more carefully guide the online conversation.

Useful links

Delhi DOE Sample Discussion Grading Rubric: confluence.delhi.edu...

Always keep in mind that marking features are common components within discussion forum settings. As you review these features in your own LMS/VLE, explore the methods for posting a marking rubric in support of student success. The 'Useful links' pod on the right-hand side of this screen will help you find more information on marking rubrics.

Always keep in mind that marking features are common components within discussion forum settings. As you review these features in your own LMS/VLE, explore the methods for posting a marking rubric in support of student success. The 'Useful links' pod at the end of this section will help you find more information on marking rubrics.

rubric

A tool or guide that helps to define the specific criteria for assessing a piece of work. It helps teachers to provide feedback and enables students to understand both assignment and assessment expectations and standards.


Did you know?

Course announcements provide guidance for your students along their learning journeys, and are a quick and simple way to keep in touch with your students online. You can use announcements to remind students of deadlines and to direct them to relevant materials outside of the course. Keep your announcements short, and check your LMS/VLE for date and time release settings. These settings can be extremely helpful by allowing you to enter standard reminders in advance and to preset release dates!

Key terms

Discussion thread: A discussion thread is a group of linked messages posted in a discussion forum that focus on a common topic. The initial post is like the first link in a chain. As participants reply to this post and to the replies posted by their peers, the thread grows and branches out. Messages are usually arranged in a hierarchy by topic.

Your context

Investigate the asynchronous communication tool features in your own institutional LMS/VLE, specifically the types of discussion forums available within feature settings.

Keep these questions in mind as you review forum features:

  • What are the different types of discussion forums and how do they function?
  • What date restriction options are available? Can you open/close on specific dates?
  • What options are there for marking student posts?
  • What group settings are available?

You may wish to record your findings in your Teaching Online portfolio.

Useful links